Over the past year I went from a happily antisocial, in-shape mom with no discernible mustache who could belt out a gut wrenching rendition of the Christmas holiday classic “Oh Holy Night” any day of the week, to an emotionally unstable bearded chubbster who could only sometimes remember to shave her armpits when she showered and would cry at the sound of a ukeleke.
If you could fast forward the last year of my life it’d look similar to the part in The Santa Clause where Tim Allen’s character stuffs his face with milk and cookies as if possessed and his belly keeps popping out of his sweatshirt while he’s running on a treadmill and his long, white beard grows back the instant he shaves it, as he transforms from a selfish businessman into Santa over the course of one December twenty-fifth to the next.
But instead of turning into Santa, I was becoming Shrek.
The increasing similarities between Shrek and myself were profound.
Feared by the townspeople–check
It felt as though a miniature version of myself sat in this ogre’s brain like I was in the cockpit of a spacecraft, looking out onto the world from behind the ogre.
“It’s not me!” I wanted to yell when the ogre would do something particularly foul like snap at my dad or eat an entire bag of store-brand chocolate chips.
After months of doctor visits and being told I was depressed or had acid reflux or Lupus and just needed to volunteer, eat more Kale and ancient grains, be more grateful, get out of the house, get a job, brush my teeth with asparagus and rinse with reverse osmosis triple ionized deionized falafel water, I still couldn’t figure out why this was happening.
Was it some random vitamin deficiency? Hormonal imbalance? Mold poisoning? Delayed Postpartum Depression? Was I the inspiration of a voodoo doll made by a Wholefoods employee who had caught me one too many times plucking goodies from the bulk section?
The last straw was when, on the day before Mother’s Day, on my morning walk, I could no longer perform the most important function of my morning walk, which was to walk.
My legs just wouldn’t do it. My once thunderous thighs had withered away to sticks and now, every time I touched the pavement it felt like my bones might crumble into dust.
I told my husband that I couldn’t go to work, I couldn’t watch our son and we had to do something. Maybe it was because I couldn’t stop crying or because I’d been wearing the same flannel shirt for a week , but we decided I should probably go to a mental home.
Fine, I thought, I don’t care where I go, just as long as I can get some rest.
The next day, Mother’s Day, I flew home to be near family, determined to get to the bottom of this.
On the plane I dodged the looks of passengers and crew members, obviously concerned I might go into labor mid-flight as my belly had swollen to a nine month pregnant size.
When I finally reached home, my step-mom took one look at me and drove me to the ER. She had done some research and found a lot of similarities between my symptoms and Cushing’s Syndrome–my Shrek-like body, stick figure arms and legs, super-bitchiness, bruises like Courtney Love circa 1995.
I was about to be discharged from the ER with a clean bill of health, but my step-mom demanded a CT scan be done on my abdomen before we’d leave as one of the causes of Cushing’s is a tumor on the adrenal gland.
The physician assistant assigned to me fought her as best she could saying they had no reason to do a scan and that it wasn’t worth exposing me to radiation.
In the end the PA couldn’t withstand the steely and somewhat murderous glare of my step-mother and agreed to a CT scan of my abdomen.
From the scan it was discovered that a.) I was constipated and b.) I had a ten centimeter tumor on my adrenal gland.
Hot diggidy dog! I thought.
Not many people would say they’re relieved to hear they have a tumor the size of a grapefruit on their organ, but I was.
Finally, an answer.
I felt like running down the halls in my hospital gown and shouting, “I’m not crazy, people! It was the tumor! It wasn’t me, I promise! I’m not craaaaazaaayyyyyy!”